Austin,TX – IBM’s Super Computer, Watson, made an appearance at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Technology Conference.

In the ‘What is Watson?’ panel, Dr. David Ferrucci, lead researcher and Principal Investigator for Watson/Jeopardy! delved into the reasons they decided to try Watson’s hand Jeopardy and what made it such a great first test.

Deep QA

IBM’s question and answer computing system has the capability to answer questions posed in natural language. When Watson looks at a question, it looks for key words and  forms subquestions which it then processes like any other question.

The popular American quiz game Jeopardy,  provides a good test bed for Watson’s abilities.  The answer provided can be broken down into many subquestions, and once those are answered, it leads to the larger question.

IBM hopes that this concept of Deep QA can be applied to different industries, including, Healthcare, Tech support, Enterprise Knowledge Management & Business Intelligence, and Government.

In a reply to an audience question on applying Deep QA to video games,
Richard Garriot said that the Artificial Intelligence (AI) would benefit from the Expert System. If there was some sort of Medical diagnosis in the game, there would also be a database containing all of the fiction for game that the machine could use to answer the question.

Richard Garriott and Nick Barbaro discuss Watson’s abilities with David Shepler

“I’d like, Before and After Goes to the Movies for $2000”


Watson will only buzz when it’s confidence level (Yellow line above) goes past the half way mark.

Barbaro/Garriot vs. Watson

Richard Garriot, Game Designer and Astronaut and Nick Barbaro, Founder of the Austin Chronicle, went up against Watson during the live demo of Jeopardy. Watson was quick at the buzzer, however there were a few instances where his confidence level wasn’t high enough to buzz.

Barbaro and Garriott made the panel a little more interactive by encouraging audience participation if they knew the correct answer. However, despite all of the audience efforts, Watson’s impressive display of knowledge resulted in another victory against humankind.

Find out more about Watson on IBM’s website